Pius Langa an 'extraodinary' man

2013-07-24 14:37
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Pius Langa in pictures

Former chief justice Pius Langa has died at 74. See pictures of his life in office.

Johannesburg - Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng paid tribute to former chief justice Pius Langa who died at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg on Wednesday, at the age of 74.

"We received news of the passing of former Chief Justice Langa with deep sadness," said Mogoeng.

Langa died in Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg, in the morning. He had been ill for some time, his brother Mandla said.

Mogoeng said Langa served the nation with distinction and would be missed for his wisdom, humility and passion for judicial independence and the country's constitutional democracy.

"On behalf of the entire judiciary: I take this opportunity to express our heartfelt condolences to his family. We trust that they will be strengthened and comforted during this difficult period," he said.

Mogoeng listed some of Langa's achievements as: senior counsel, president of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel), deputy chief justice and finally chief justice of the Constitutional Court.

His enormous contribution to the development of South Africa's jurisprudence was known and appreciated worldwide, said Mogoeng.

He helped develop a judiciary-led court administration model which would strengthen the institutional independence of the country's judiciary.

Together with some of the world's leading jurists, he developed the Bangalore Principles on judicial ethics, currently embraced by almost all judiciaries in the world.

President Jacob Zuma said: "The country has lost one of its best legal minds, a dedicated human rights jurist and a veteran struggle activist.

"On behalf of government and the people of South Africa, we wish to convey our deepest condolences. May his soul rest in peace," he said in a statement.

Zuma said that even in retirement Langa had continued to serve his country and South Africans as chairman of the Press Freedom Commission.

From humble beginnings

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa said: "His humble beginnings in Bushbuckridge, and at some point working at a shirt factory, should inspire young South Africans to work hard because it is possible to achieve greatness."

He had represented the underprivileged, the downtrodden and marginalised majority of South Africa under the oppressive apartheid security legislation, and would be remembered for his sterling contribution to the transformation of the judiciary.

Holomisa was pleased that he had known his work was appreciated, through the award of the Order of the Supreme Counsellor of the Baobab.

"To his family, friends and colleagues; we will keep you in our prayers during this trying time," said Holomisa.

The ANC mourned the death of "a soft-spoken, kind-hearted legal eagle" who represented many of its comrades during apartheid.

"Apart from this role, Justice Langa himself was a committed, seasoned activist and leader, fighting against the evil system of apartheid under the banner of [Nadel] which was part of the family of the United Democratic Front (UDF).

"Coming from humble beginnings, Justice Langa distinguished himself in the service of his country and his countrymen."

Defending the constitution

He defended the Constitution and democracy, and South Africa was poorer for the loss of Langa.

Mosiuoa Lekota, leader of the Cope said: "He was to a very large extent a self-taught man who understood the lives of the poor, the non-educated and educated people of all races in South Africa."

He sent condolences to all who knew him, and to his family.

DA leader Helen Zille said Langa had played an "extraordinary role" as a South African.

"His commitment to human rights, equality and justice makes him one of our most admirable proponents of democracy," said Zille.

"South Africa has been deeply enriched by his contribution in serving our communities, people and fighting against their oppression. Our deepest condolences to his family and all those who knew him."

The Law Society of SA said: "As the first black chief justice of South Africa, he headed a transforming judiciary and legal profession with strength, humility and dignity."

"Throughout his career in the profession, starting as a court interpreter and messenger, then as a prosecutor and magistrate, as well as later as an advocate and judge, he was and remained a humble and vigilant proponent of the rights of the marginalised, oppressed and underprivileged," said the society's co-chairs, Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu and David Bekker.

The society acknowledged Langa's efforts in accelerating the appointment of women to the Bench through a special training programme, which resulted in the appointment of a number of new women judges.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  udm  |  cope  |  mogoeng mogoeng  |  helen zille  |  jacob zuma  |  bantu holomisa  |  pius langa  |  mosiuoa lekota

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